Our school was very close to the Chalkhill estate, a multicultural melting pot heavily populated by Jamaicans, Bajans, and Indians, and these kids introduced me to Ragga.
Ragga has a harder edged than Reggae, what distinguishes it is the DJ (DJ in Caribbean Culture a DJ is the Mic Controller MC) who will toast (Rap) over a dub plate (Instrumental record). Early Ragga records were simply versions (a dub plate with new vocal). You often heard ten or more versions of a popular dub plate be played at a Blues (House Party). The Selector (DJ in the Hip Hop speak) would wheel and pull them one after another to create tension and focus the energy in the room, a trick I still use when today when I DJ.
The first Ragga tune I bought was ‘Hill and Gully’ by Johnny Osbourne, I got it from a Guy called Daddy Ernie who owned a record stall situated in the market at the end of Wembley Rd. The shop was always filled with Dreads and intimidating looking dudes, and I would venture in every Saturday and ask to hear the dance floor killers.
Obviously I visited other shops like Hawkeye and Dub Vendor in Harlesden (Charlie Den to those in the know) but I became friends with Ernie and I knew he was holding back tunes for me because I was a loyal customer. That was how tings ran back then, you needed to put in the time to secure the tunes, more so when there may be less than 100 copies in the country.
Ernie is still running tings in London and is a DJ on Vibes FM.